Saturday, June 30, 2007

Old Woman at Khari Baoli

In the spice market at Shahjahanabad, I found this frail lady sitting guard over some baskets and small metal stools.

I think she was selling them. I hesitated, torn between the photo opportunity she presented, and the desire to strike up a conversation.

She looked so fragile that I felt embarassed, hesitant. I was afraid that with my Westernised haircut and very 'modern' appearance, if I talked to her, she would think of me as someone alien, a city memsahib, blind to the realities of her life.

So I turned away, to explore the spice shop near her.

And the opportunity was lost.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Hairbraids, Delhi-style

Outside Dilli Haat, a group of enterprising Rajasthani women run a hair-braiding service. I saw several college girls sitting there, having their hair braided.

If you have fifteen minutes to spare, you could try it! First, you find a pleasant spot under the banyan tree. Then you pick, from a wide range of coloured threads, two colors for your hair.

That's it. The hard work's over. Now all you do is sit back, look pretty, and let the braider work her magic. First she separates a little portion of your hair, into a small braid. Then she begins wrapping the coloured threads round and round.

There's a breeze, and your hair's flying in it, but the braiding goes on uninterrupted. It's the CD, you see?

CD? What CD? If you look out of the corner of your eye, you'll see the CD that the lady uses to hold your hair back! I think that's Katrina Kaif on the cover, in a movie titled 'Unfaithful'. I tell you, there's technology lurking everywhere.

Wooden Slippers

If you go to a religious centre in India, you'll usually see mendicants wearing wooden slippers. It is a substitute for leather shoes, because leather is considered impure. Wooden slippers are harder on the feet, and you need ultra-strong toe muscles like Superman, but hey - at least you feel virtuous.

At Hanuman Mandir, I spotted a man making these slippers. So I hunkered down to see what he was doing.

He would make a neat hole in each slipper, and then he would hammer a little wooden peg into it as a toe-hold. Just like a stopper in a wine bottle!

I asked him if the peg would hold. In response he smiled and waved the bottle of Fevicol at me. But of course. I should have known he'd use Fevicol. Afterall, every carpenter in India uses Fevicol, and this is woodcraft, not shoemaking!

Who so holds Delhi, holds India

In her book The Voice of the Orient, Kate Ellen Tibbits, an Englishwoman living in India in the 1900's wrote, "Who so holds Delhi, holds India".

It's not hard to see why. Successive waves of conquerors - Persians, Mongols and Englishmen - used Delhi as the seat of their power, making the city a glittering symbol of pomp and wealth. If Delhi fell, their empires fell. As long as Delhi held fast, their rule continued unchallenged.

This blog is a tribute to Delhi, Queen of Cities - her gloriously decadent past, her vibrant streets, her markets and her people.

I hope you'll enjoy reading it, as much I enjoy writing it. Keep dropping in!